The Darkness at Celebrity Theatre, 2/18/12
The Darkness is doing pretty well for a band that could be a considered a one-hit wonder. After a five-year hiatus and some rehab visits, the band is back in full force with its original lineup.
They still look trapped in the '70s, too, with frontman Justin Hawkins sporting a mess of curly blond hair and a bare, tattooed chest that he's all too eager to expose. He made lots of jokes about being naked, which wasn't that surprising after seeing his blurred out bum in the "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" video. His brother Dan Hawkins shared guitar duty and headbanged more than the standard metalhead at a Metallica show. Frankie Poullain is back in the band, now dressed like a bizarre version of Jimi Hendrix or MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden.
The Darkness' live performance is nostalgic on so many levels. In spite of the hiatus, these guys seemed genuinely happy to once again share the stage with each other. The band played a lengthy set rife with extended guitar solos and soaring falsetto vocals (from both Justin Hawkins and the audience). Hawkins frequently asked fans to parrot back whatever strange sounds he was making, and the crowd enthusiastically mimicked his sustained high notes.
Fans were eager to sing along, particularly to the Permission to Land songs and even most of the One Way Ticket to Hell...and Back jams. "Friday Night" was a crowd favorite, with fans immediately singing along once the song was recognized.
Things got intimate during a solo acoustic version of "Holding My Own," a standout song of the evening.
For the most part, it didn't seem like the crowd was just patiently waiting for "I Believe in a Thing Called Love." The band played the entirety of its debut album, Permission to Land as well as some b-sides, tracks from One Way Ticket to Hell...and Back and some tunes from the band's upcoming album. Fans embraced the new songs by singing, clapping, and giving the thumbs up with as much enthusiasm as their response to old favorites.
There have been some doubts as to the authenticity of The Darkness. Sure, Hawkins is essentially Freddie Mercury, Aldous Snow, and a carnie all wrapped up into one bizarre person who seems like the type to make sure all of the amps can go "up to 11," but that's all image. All four musicians were talented and kept the audience engaged with both musical skill and showmanship. There's something rad about seeing a guy wearing a striped jumpsuit with a codpiece soloing on a guitar as if it's as easy as breathing. Few contemporary bands can pull this off like The Darkness does.